Tag Archives: Speaking Activity

To Kill A Mockingbird Socratic Seminar

This year I implemented socratic seminar into my classroom to encourage close reading. The trial scene in To Kill A Mockingbird is a perfect place to encourage discussion and deep reading. Prior to the seminar, students were to prepare a “One Pager” – A one pager is a single-page response to reading. Some might say that the purpose of a one pager is for students to own their reading and showcase their understanding with images and words.

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The One Pager Contains the following:

  1. Choose three or more meaningful quotes from the reading: passages/quotes that relate to the theme or main idea of the story. Be sure to use quotation marks, and include the page number where you found the quote.
  2. Provide a thought provoking explanation of the importance and meaning of the quote: (how does it help you, the reader, get a better understanding of the story, character, theme, etc.).
  3. Use graphic representations: a drawing, magazine pictures, or computer graphics that go with the piece you read, and the quotes you chose.
  4. Include a personal response to what you have read: this is NOT a summary of the story. This is a thoughtful, insightful response. Think about the message the author is trying to get across, how the author uses different types of literary devices (suspense, mood, point-of-view) to make the story more interesting. This response must be a paragraph minimum, with specific examples from the story.
  5. Remember the following guidelines for this assignment:
    •   It MUST be on a standard sized (81⁄2 x 11) unlined sheet of paper.
    •   It MUST fill the entire page (no white space showing)
    •   Writing MUST be in ink or typed…no pencil.
    •   Use colored pencils, crayons, or markers
    •   The title and author of the story (correctly formatted) MUST appear somewhere on the front of the paper.
    •   Reference the page number in parentheses after each excerpt.

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To help guide my students’ analysis of the trial scene in Mockingbird, I included eight (8) questions on the back of the one-pager assignment and suggested that students answer three (3) questions regarding the trial and to answer with direct textual support. The questions addressed how likely is it that Tom Robinson committed the crime of which he is accused, Mayella Ewell’s attitude about race, the response the children had to the trial, who is the mockingbird, was Atticus successful during the trial, and Atticus’ character displayed during and after the trial. For students not sure which quotes to pull from the text, these questions helped students hone in on some key ideas. In addition, they were the jumping off points for our Socratic Seminar.

The one pager assignment was completed in class and then if extra time was needed, students could work on it outside of class. The quality of the one-pagers I received from 95% of my students was exceptional and helped to carry out a robust Socratic Seminar.

IMG_8610  TKAM One Pager

The procedure for the Socratic Seminar included moving all the desks into a large circle for all the participants to see each other. Students put all books away and only had their one-pagers out in front of them with the text. I reminded my students that this is a conversation and not a debate, rather it is a chance to uncover deeper meanings about the author’s central ideas within the text and communicate our interpretations with the class. I told students that there are no right  or wrong answers. In even posted discussion stems on the SMARTBoard to help students frame their conversations and support one another throughout the discussion.

While students were speaking, I kept track of who spoke and contributed to the discussion in meaningful ways. I told students that in order to earn points during the discussion they had to speak at least three times and build on another’s point using specific examples. I told students that I won’t call on them to speak, they are to jump into the conversation and say something to receive full credit for the discussion. In one class, students spoke around the first question for more than twenty minutes.

I have to give credit to my amazing co-teacher for introducing me to both the one-pager and encouraging me to do a Socratic Seminar with my students. It was such a success that I wish I had done these activities earlier in the school year and conducted the seminar more often. This is something that I will implement with all the units that students read and write in the new school year.

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Qualities of Great Speakers: Building Student Speaking Skills

What are the qualities of a great speaker?

Who are the great speakers we can model?

If you mentioned Martin Luther King, Jr., what makes his a historic speaker? What are the qualities that he exudes in his speech writing and public speaking? What are some of the aspects of his public speaking we want our students to model?

What were the words or phrases that stuck with you throughout the speech?

How does King use his voice and body language to captivate his audience?

How does MLK utilize repetition in his speech to leave an impression on the listener?

What other “moves” does MLK use in his speech to make a lasting impression on his listeners?

Check out a list of Rhetorical Devices and Strategies that King uses throughout his speech.

Now, let’s look at John F. Kennedy’s Inauguration Speech in January 1961.

Whereas MLK wrote his own speeches, JFK wrote his speech with the help of his speech writer, Ted Sorenson. The phrase, “Ask not what your country can do for you; but what you can do for your country” was taken from JFK’s headmaster at Choate School when he was a student. He headmaster was known to say, “Ask not what your school can do for your; but what you can do for your school.”

What public speaking skills does JFK bring to the conversation?

How are JFK and MLK similar and different at orators?

The majority of famous speakers today draw inspiration and borrow devices from great public speakers of the past like Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy.

The voice is unique in its ability to communicate. There is no one good speaking voice, but most audiences agree that a pleasant, expressive voice has certain pleasing qualities. A good speaking voice is not born, but developed through training and practice. Through proper use of breathing, resonance, articulation, and pitch we can communicate more effectively.

Your voice and the way that you speak says a lot about you.

Your voice is your most influential tool in a speech situation.

Similar to reading, students are expected to learn public speaking in secondary school. But many of our students are not comfortable speaking in front of the whole class and do not understand that listening requires a person to give their undivided attention to the speaker (eye contact, body at rest, mouth closed, all distractions put away).  Many of us will teach or are already teaching ELL students or students with limited English speaking skills along with student who are proficient speakers. How do we support all of our students as public speakers? 

Speaking and Listening is part of the Common Core and starting by the first grade, “students are expected to know and be able to do the following during small- and whole-group discussions: follow participation rules, build on others’ comments, and ask clarifying questions.” By middle and high school the conversations and group work is more demanding. Speaking and listening must go beyond the “turn and talk” or “think pair share” opportunities we offer students during class activities. Students must also be able to present information to small groups and large audiences. Students can utilize technology and podcast or video their presentations too.

 What are creative ways that you can have students practice speaking and build their communication skills?  

Our job is to excite students about the world, to help them see the role that they can play in making society a better place, to express their ideas powerfully, to see that our content area is about real world problems, issues, and possible solutions. Our content areas should show students the world, not just tell them about it. Our curriculum needs to include role plays, simulations, debates, formal speeches, and demonstrations. Screen-casts, podcasts, and video projects are all great venues that allow students to utilize speaking and listening skills.

 

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Speak Up: 12 Informative Speech Ideas to Promote Speaking and Listening in the Classroom

Speaking and Listening is part of the Common Core and starting by the first grade, “students are expected to know and be able to do the following during small- and whole-group discussions: follow participation rules, build on others’ comments, and ask clarifying questions.” By middle and high school the conversations and group work is more demanding. Speaking and listening must go beyond the “turn and talk” or “think pair share” opportunities we offer students during class activities. Students must also be able to present information to small groups and large audiences. Students can utilize technology and podcast or video their presentations too.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.8.4

Present claims and findings, emphasizing salient points in a focused, coherent manner with relevant evidence, sound valid reasoning, and well-chosen details; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.8.5

Integrate multimedia and visual displays into presentations to clarify information, strengthen claims and evidence, and add interest.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.8.6

Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.

http://www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy/SL/8/

One of my most popular blog posts is 50 persuasive speech and debate topics. I wanted to come back to this topic of speech and debate topics to catalogue informative speech topics that students can complete to practice speaking and build their communication skills.  Below are 12 different informative speech topics that creatively tap into research, writing, speaking and listening skills.

  1. The Letter Lecture – Students take turns “lecturing” to the class by reciting the alphabet or counting to fifty. Without having to think about what you are saying, you can concentrate on making eye contact, gesturing for emphasis, and other elements of great speakers. When lecturing students can put inflection on the letters or numbers as though they are really saying something, and meeting each classmate’s eyes at least once. This activity is more to help students understand inflection, emphasis, tone and volume, rather than focusing on a specific topic.
  2. Create an Imaginary or Mythical Creature – Describe the following: What does it look like (size, fur, scales, nose, claws, color, tail)? Is it a mammal, reptile, amphibian, marsupial, alien? What does it eat? What eats it? Why kind of habitat does it live in? Does it make a sound? What survival characteristics does it have (flies, swaims, runs, digs, camouflages, flights)? Present an informative speech on the creature.
  3. Splendorous Persons Award – We have all seen the award shows —  VMAs, the Oscars, the Tony’s, the Emmys, and the Grammys — the award shows that celebrate and highlight people’s achievements. Find someone in class and interview them in order to find out what makes them so splendorous – ask them about their achievements, strengths, and what makes them unique, why they deserve this award. Write a short speech to introduce and present the award (think lifetime achievement awards) to the recipient. As the recipient, you also need to come up with your thank you speech. Who are you going to thank and why? What lasting words do you want to leave your audience with?
  4. Personal Icon Presentation – Students are to build a visual representation of themselves (a personal icon). Students can use their icons to share as much or as little about themselves they are comfortable with using any objects, scale models, photos, memorabilia, drawings, jewelry, cut-outs, or collections that they choose (Do not include names or photographs that would identify you to the rest of the class.) This can be a collage, a grouping of found objects, a piece of artwork, your imagination is limitless. Concentrate on the overall message about yourself that you would like to communicate through the choice of symbols.
  5. “I Have a Dream” Speech – In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. students come up with a topic for their own “I have a dream” speech. In the speech students can talk about a dream for yourself and/or the country. The dream can range from the simple to the grand. The speech should include what the dream in, why it is important to them personally, and one thing they can do to accomplish the dream.
  6. Speech of Introductions – Begin by identifying a major, defining characteristic of “you,” a personality characteristic or a value which you believe in very strongly. Then, write a “personal statement,” a statement that defines the essence or a defining characteristic of you. The personal statement must be a positive statement about yourself; it cannot include negative words. Your personal statement will serve as the central idea of your speech. Develop one or two examples to illustrate what you mean and how this is true. Make yourself and your speech interesting by beginning with a question or anecdote. Provide an initial summary of the three or four defining characteristics you have selected to communicate about yourself. Discuss each of the three or four characteristics, offering examples or explanation to illustrate why your characterization is appropriate. Conclude by summarizing the three characteristics.
  7. Best Selling Authors – Ask students to speak clearly and forcefully by organizing thoughts and using their imagination to create a believable monologue. Act as an expert author on one of these subjects: Alternative Housing: Living in Tree Houses, 1,000 Useful Items Made from Spaghetti, Alternative Transportation: Roman chariots and horses, The Joy of Being Invisible: A pill that works, Changing Lifestyles: Rent a Mom or Dad.
  8. Teacher Travel Agency – You have just been hired by the Teacher Travel Agency as a travel agent. It is your job to present an informative speech on a specific travel destination to the rest of the class. The goal is to inform future travelers about this destination and why it is worthwhile for them to visit. Remember to include information that will be helpful to prospective travelers: weather conditions in the country, passport regulations, interesting tourist attractions, things to do there, places to stay, and additional information that is necessary for planning a wonderful excursion.
  9. Legends – A legend is a person, group, movement, or event which has influenced the way we think, the way we perceive our world. It may reinforce values we already hold or it may force us to reexamine our current values and establish new values. For this speech, students will inform the audience about a legend that has significantly influenced our world and or community. Thus, the legend might be a person, group, movement or event which has influenced the fields of Education, Business, Science, Art or Music. Or the legend might be a person, group, movement or event which has influenced American culture – Barack Obama to Jimi Hendrix, MTV to Google, Hillary Clinton to Madonna. The goal is not to outline the life of a person, group, movement, or event – the goal is to tell the audience how the legend changed things forever.
  10. Willy Wonka – You have invented a new candy. A meeting has been arranged with the president of Nestle Candy Company, the largest candy company in the world. At the meeting you will have a chance to inform the corporate executives of your candy invention. Write an informative speech to present to the president of Nestle about your candy invention.
  11. News Reporting – This assignment gives students the opportunity to see what it would be like to work as a member of a news team. Students choose a popular topic today and prepare a news report based on research and interviews.
  12. The Pet Peeve Speech – Express your frustration and anger about something that upsets you – a pet peeve. For example, a person who constantly interrupts or someone who is always on their cell phone. Voice your anger and illustrate what about the occurrence gets you so upset. What can people do to stop this annoying habit?

Have additional speech ideas? Please share in the Comments section below.

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What Do You Want to Be Known For? . . . An End of the Year Activity

Towards the last two months of the school year many teachers ask their students to reflect on what they learned, students begin to go through their work deciding what is their best work, what needs to be revised, and what can be recycled. Portfolios are presented and final essays are turned in. Teachers ask students to fill out questionnaires and write reflections across contents and grade levels. What if there was another way to present reflections and go beyond what was learned in the past school year?

Back in 2007 Oprah Winfrey had Dr. Randy Pausch on her show to present a lecture he gave to students and faculty at Carnegie Mellon. Dr. Pausch was a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, PA), who was diagnosed with terminal cancer and only a few months to live. In keeping with tradition of college professors retiring, he gave his last lecture. This incredibly moving presentation was passed around the internet and later turned into a book.

If you had one last lecture to give, what would it be?

Rather than have students write a one page reflection or complete a questionnaire, what if you asked them to present their last lecture to the class sharing the most important lessons they have learned in their lifetime?

First, I show my students Dr. Pausch’s last lecture (the short version in class and if you are flipping your classroom, give them the longer version to watch at home. Have students take notes on the lecture to help them jot down key ideas and insightful comments they can share with their classmates.

Then, students reflect on the lecture. This can be completed in written or discussion format.  Guiding questions include:

· What words of wisdom will you take from Randy Pausch as you embark on a future path and life?

· Which of his “life lessons” impact you the most right now? Explain your response.

· What are your dominant personality components based on the Array Interactive Inventory* and what is your reaction to your score on the survey? How does this influence your own aspirations?

*Dr. Pausch mentions during his lecture about personality traits and asks whether a person is a Tigger, Eeyore, or Winnie the Pooh. These personality characteristics are consistent with the Array Interactive Inventory. Tigger is Connection, Winnie the Pooh is Harmony, Rabbit is Production, and Eeyore is Status Quo. The inventory is a great tool for personal reflection or even as a tool for differentiation and group work.

After students view, reflect, and discuss Dr. Pausch’s lecture as a model, they begin to craft their own.

Below are some of the Common Core Standards students are using while completing this assignment.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.8.2 – Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including its relationship to supporting ideas; provide an objective summary of the text.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.8.3 – Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequences.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.8.3.A – Engage and orient the reader by establishing a context and point of view and introducing a narrator and/or characters; organize an event sequence that unfolds naturally and logically.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.8.4 – Present claims and findings, emphasizing salient points in a focused, coherent manner with relevant evidence, sound valid reasoning, and well-chosen details; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.
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